Vic­to­ria Lions Club cel­e­brates 40 years of help­ing oth­ers

The Compass - - SPORTS - BYMELISSA JENK­INS SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­PASS

When driv­ing over the ridge from Car­bon­ear into the pic­turesque com­mu­nity of Vic­to­ria, a park fea­tur­ing sev­eral pic­nic ta­bles and a gazebo over­look­ing the town be­low wel­comes you.

In front of the park di­rectly next to the road stands a large sign marked with the very rec­og­niz­able yel­low and blue Lions Club In­ter­na­tional sym­bol erected by the lo­cal chap­ter as a do­na­tion to the town.

For 40 years, the club has been help­ing out lo­cal causes and or­ga­ni­za­tions and are still very ac­tive in the com­mu­nity.

They call the cur­rent Vic­to­ria Com­mu­nity Cen­tre on the main high­way — for­mer Lions club build­ing — home.

A group of four mem­bers — Elihu An­tle, Wal­ter (Vi­vian) His­cock, Muriel Brewer and Frank An­tle — sit around a ta­ble at their meet­ing place dis­cussing some past times and favourite mem­o­ries from the very be­gin­ning.

And so it be­gins

On June 16, 1973 a group of 21 lo­cal men gath­ered to char­ter the Vic­to­ria Lions Club.

From the very be­gin­ning the am­bi­tion was clear, they wanted to help as many peo­ple as they could, so they found a place to meet.

“Our first din­ner meet­ing was held at the ‘Pig and Whis­tle,’” says Elihu, a char­tered mem­ber of the club. “That was the first and only one held there.”

“Pig and Whis­tle” was a tele­vi­sion show about an English pub that aired from 1967 to 1977, and it be­came the nick­name of a lo­cal dart and drink­ing hangout owned by, now de­ceased mem­ber, Stan­ley Clarke.

Stan­ley painted benches for the club to sit on, but the paint hadn’t dried by the time the meet­ing be­gan.

“Most of the guys had green paint on the seat of their pants,” Vi­vian, an­other char­tered mem­ber, laughs ac­knowl­edg­ing he, too, was cov­ered.

Elihu said their first build­ing was an old an­tique shop that was towed next to where the cur­rent build­ing stands to­day.

In Nov. 1976, con­struc­tion be­gan on a new build­ing, and the group has called it home ever since.

Less than a decade ago, the Lions de­ter­mined the price to main­tain the build­ing was too much.

“Ev­ery cent we made was be­ing put into this place with noth­ing left for do­na­tions,” Frank, club sec­re­tary and brother to Elihu ex­plains.

The town de­cided to pur­chase the build­ing and the club now rents the space for meet­ings and to cook din­ners for their fundraisers.

Fundrais­ing and do­na­tions

For the past four decades the club has given away “well over half a mil­lion dollars” raised through fundrais­ing ef­forts to dif­fer­ent char­i­ties.

“We can’t re­ally de­ter­mine a com­plete dol­lar value when we give more than (mone­tary) do­na­tions,” Elihu says.

The very first cause the or­ga­ni­za­tion gave to was to the res­i­dents of Har­bour Bre­ton af­ter a land­slide that took with it homes and be­long­ings.

The most re­cent do­na­tion is for the Calgary flood disas­ter, which the club says they will be send­ing soon.

“When Igor swept through New­found­land a few years ago, many in­ter­na­tional Lions Clubs sent help to us,” Elihu says. “We, in turn, give back.”

Ev­ery year the club also do­nates to the Lion Max Simms Me­mo­rial Camp in Bishop’s Falls for chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties, the Lions Foun­da­tion of Canada that trains guide dogs and hosts a World Ser­vice Day event for wi­d­ows and wid­ow­ers of Vic­to­ria. They are also the spon­sor for the Vic­to­ria army cadet corps. “In 1975 we pur­chased our first wheel­chair to loan to res­i­dents at no cost,” club pres­i­dent Muriel says. The group does not know the ex­act num­ber of lo­cals they are help­ing with this pro­gram, but they cur­rently have many wheel­chairs, hos­pi­tal beds, walk­ers and bath seats loaned out.

“They just re­turn it when it is no longer needed,” Muriel con­tin­ues,

The club has also do­nated money for many in­ter­na­tional causes, in­clud­ing help­ing get 35-mil­lion chil­dren in Africa vaccinated against the measles.

Suc­cess in fundrais­ing

The group tells sto­ries and makes jokes about their most mem­o­rable event, the de­mo­li­tion derby held for three years in the late 1970s. The event was ex­pected to bring in a cou­ple hun­dred peo­ple, Vi­vian said, but some 5,000 peo­ple ar­rived the day of the first derby.

“Cars kept com­ing,” he said. “We made $10,000 on the gate in cash.”

The fear of be­ing in pos­ses­sion of that much money scared Vi­vian quite a bit, so he put the money in a suit­case and took it im­me­di­ately to a safe at the town hall.

As a re­sult of fundrais­ing ef­forts like the derby, take-out din­ners and ra­dio bingo, they are also able to host a Christ­mas din­ner for se­niors ev­ery year, sup­ply hun­dreds of school chil­dren with goody-bags for Christ­mas, spon­sor the an­nual Santa Claus pa­rade event and sup­ply the first of July caplin boilup with food, in­clud­ing 16 loaves of home­made bread.

The vol­un­teer­ing is plen­ti­ful, and the group agrees they couldn’t see them­selves ever leav­ing the club.

On top of the busy sched­ule the Lions have, they are also look­ing to as­sist the next gen­er­a­tion of Lions to help grow and sus­tain the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Four for­mer pres­i­dents of the Vic­to­ria Lions Club stop off at the club-do­nated park at the en­trance of the town. Ob­serv­ing the park are, from left, cur­rent pres­i­dent Muriel Brewer, char­tered mem­ber Wal­ter (Vi­vian) His­cock, char­tered mem­ber Elihu An­tle and club sec­re­tary Frank An­tle.

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